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British ecommerce sites hit by several DDoS attacks

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October 21, 2015

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It's now reported that several British eCommerce website administrators are trying to manage many service disruptions after they were systematically targeted this week by DDoS hackers demanding ransoms to stop the distributed attacks.

Bolton-based online reseller Scan International confirmed it first noted unusual amounts of internet traffic visiting its home page on Sunday, which continued until today, peaking at lunchtime.

Scan representative Elan Raja told us the company also received an email from an anonymous source demanding payment of a ransom to put an end to the DDoS attacks. He refused to detail the amount requested but it could very well be in the several thousands.

“This has happened to various companies this week by individuals that are using e-tailers like an ATM,” he told internet-security.ca.

Raja added that he has let the appropriate authorities deal with the issue, and that he bolstered its site's defences, but he added that at no point were the attackers able to obtain customers personal information as “our data is protected internally”.

“This is an attack on our external infrastructure,” he said, and “if you imagine our business in a house, the data is held in a secure room. The criminals cannot break down the door but are still ringing the bell”.

Technology e-tailer Aria Technology was also affected by a similar website disruption yesterday.

Aria Taheri, the company's managing director, said his firm’s website was knocked out on yesterday afternoon for around two hours, one day after his company received a blackmail demand via email for 16.66 Bitcoins (about US $4,000).

The blackmailers threatened to make the site unavailable for Wednesday unless payment was met, but actually started a series of intermittent attacks on Monday that continued into Wednesday morning and beyond.

“It was a powerful attack that also affected our service providers,” Taheri told us. “It was a consistent DDoS attack that has continued today,” he added.

Aria reported the attack on its systems to Greater Manchester Police, Taheri confirmed. Novatech, CCL and gaming biz Overclockers are also understood to be affected, although there is no concrete evidence that the attacks are connected. The companies were not available to comment.

Novatech and Scan told customers via their Twitter feeds that their respective websites were experiencing issues, but without explaining exactly why.

Novatech’s website appeared normal on Wednesday morning, while Scan’s website was slow to load or occasionally briefly unavailable. Aria’s website appeared to be functioning normally, however.

Taheri estimates that his competitors were hit as part of the same DDoS attack, but this remains unconfirmed at this point.

Back in March 2013, Aria’s site was also hit by a DDoS attack but the culprit was identified after a reward was posted, according to Taheri.

The businessman is adopting the same tactics this time around offering a £15,000 reward for information that leads to a successful prosecution against the culprits.

DDoS-based extortion attacks have been a huge and ongoing issue for many years. Initially, they were launched against online bookmakers at times of peak demand but over time a wider range of targets have been affected.

One particular group of hackers called DDoS for Bitcoin (DD4BC) have been particularly active in blackmailing smaller businesses with packet flooding attacks over recent months.

The latest run of attacks are similar to previous extortion hit scams linked to Bitcoins, which makes it a suspect, if nothing else.

The evidence is circumstantial at best. DD4BC started off by attacking Bitcoin firms, before expanding its range of targets including banks and Scandinavian firms.

A security company praised Aria for standing up to extortionate demands. Igal Zeifman, senior digital strategist at Imperva, a supplier of DDoS mitigation and web application firewall technology, commented: “By refusing to pay the ransom and posting a bounty instead, Aria is following the steps taken by companies such as Bitalo and Bitmain, who also decided to strike back against their DDoS extortionists."

"It is definitely doing the right thing. Based on our experience, despite the attackers’ robust threats, many of these attacks tend to be unimpressive and can be countered with ease, given the proper protection," added Zeifman.

Source: Scan International.

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